Category Archives: Pilots & Adventurers

The Itch

Over the last few days, I received two catalogs in the mail; Yard Store and Aircraft Spruce. If you are into experimental aircraft or restoration these will be no strangers, and you might be getting a little wood just thinking about them. I spent most of Christmas Eve going through both catalogs page by page, all 1300+ pages.

Spending Christmas eve looking through a couple of aviation catalogs might sound a little weird if you are not deeply infected with the aviation bug, but to me, I could think of nothing else. I had been sitting on both of them for a few days and was chomping at the bit to get at them. Fortunately I had enough restraint to get family stuff done first and waited until we were just sitting around watching movies.

I have been a pilot for 12 years, and an aircraft mechanic for 3, It’s been way too long since I have flown and I haven’t wrenched on an airplane in about a year, so I have been itching something fierce to be… that which I am, an Aviator. Sound a little melodramatic? Maybe. I went back to school full-time for over two years to become an aircraft mechanic when I started an experimental aircraft project because I wanted to be that much more knowledgeable and skilled before really getting into the project. That should give an indication of the level of aviation infection I have.

Looking at the catalogs brought my lack of aviation related activity into a very sharp view. In the Aircraft Spruce catalog, the first 40 pages, I was feeling a deep homesickness, both for flying and for wrenching. It’s an aching feeling that something just isn’t right, I just don’t know how to explain it to someone who hasn’t been bitten by the same bug. It’s like a physical piece of you is missing, a phantom pain. Over time you just learn to ignore it then something happens and all of a sudden you realize that the phantom is still there and the longing returns.

Sounds a bit crazy to those not afflicted I’m sure. For me, it is very real. In part, it is so strong because I haven’t been able to share this thing that brings me so much joy with those I love. Only one family member has ever flown with me. I want so much to take Tammy and our son flying, to share that exhilarating experience with them, to share that part of me, that fills me with such joy, I want to share that joy.

Building and working on airplanes is something I doubt they will ever find as enjoyable as I do, but flying may have some impact. I would love to take them flying and have them take advantage of the opportunity by taking pictures in-flight, and maybe, just maybe they can feel some of what I feel when I fly.

I miss the skies, I miss flying through the scud, I miss the instrument approaches, I miss the pre-flights, I miss the refueling, I miss the flight planning, I miss the excitement of driving to the airport for a flight, I miss it all. Some day soon my friend sky, some day soon.


Big changes continue…

I started this post a couple of days ago. I had to be sure things were going to happen before posting. There have been some big changes in my education plan over the last two weeks.

My first full semester at San Jose City College is just about done. Nothin’ left but finals next week. I have been doing well, I like all of my classes, my instructors are great, and I have made some new friends. My classes have all been GEs because I was planning on transferring to San Jose State to work on an engineering degree.

After doing some research and chatting with persons in-the-know I came to the realization that spending six years to get a masters in engineering just might not be a good idea. Statistically it is unlikely that a newly minted, 50 year old, engineer will be able to find a job as an engineer. Further more it doesn’t get me much closer to my career objective of restoring vintage airplanes and warbirds, with instruction and aerobatic competition on the side.

Another fly in the education ointment has been that I have little to no exposure to aviation folks. I have been focused on getting my GEs done, but there have been many distractions diverting my attention. Let’s face it, I have a lot of diverse interests. What I need to be doing is getting back to eat, sleep, dream, and live aviation like I was back in flight school.

With that in mind, I found a place semi-local, to work on my aircraft mechanic certificates. This would give me what I need to actually start working in the field. It also brings my objectives into focus on a practical level. A two year FAA approved A&P (airframe & powerplant) certificate program is available down in Gillroy at Gavilan College. It’s a bit of a hike and will cost a lot in fuel and auto maintenance, but over all well worth the effort.

One of the nice things about this is that I am still only a few classes away from finishing my AS in Aviation Operations at Mountain State which I can get done slowly over the next 2 years. I will also be able to get credit for my A&P, enough credit in fact that with a hand full of other classes I would qualify for my BS in Aviation Management. As for the Masters… I can work on it through MSU, SJSU, or another institution if I choose, but it really isn’t a necessity. The engineering stuff, well, that I can do on my own. The engineer provides data as needed to the FAA but is not a “Certificate holder”, It’s the A&P/IA who signs off on work done and mods.

In other areas…

Weight loss going very well. I am just shy of 30 pounds lost since the beginning of the year That is half of my goal for this year. It feels good to be getting into shape. Getting up early every day is still lax but I am getting better about it. School will held a lot since I will have to be in Gillroy by 08:00. I have also been getting a lot more exercise, though it is not every day yet. A lot more walking on the schedule and I have been much more active over all.

I have been keeping track of my food on and that has helped a lot. If you struggle with weight I recommend this site. Calorie counting is not for everyone but this tool makes it a lot easier. Recently I made some changes to the automatic plan they calculate by lowering my targets for calories, sugar, and carbs while increasing fat and protein. None of the changes are drastic, just tweaks to see if they achieve the desired effect. Boy have they worked out! 11 pounds of that 30 have been over the last 14 days. I am expecting a plateau soon but I am hoping for 10 more pounds before it happens.

The day job is still not getting the attention it needs but The plan is to focus on a kick-ass-and-take-names short summer with three projects that I want to finish before school starts on August 10th.

Building the airplane has been on a bit if a hiatus. I want to be in the shop working but I just haven’t had the time. It will get done, I just don’t know when. For now, it is not a priority. Once I am working on my A&P I may be able to use the VP as shop project time.

All in all things are going well and moving forward. And really, what more can I ask for.

Until next time, blue skies and tail winds,

Biennial Vision Exam

FAA Medical CertificateI recently had my once-every-two-year-just-for-the-sake-of-it eye exam. As with most people over fourty my vision has diminished a little. Fortunatly for me, I started out with really good vision so that even though I am getting to that age, I still have better than 20/20 vision (knock on wood). That doesn’t mean that I don’t get a little nerved up for the eye exam which by the way seems to dry my eyes a bit. Since this exam is not with an AME it doesn’t really count for anything as far as the FAA is concerned, but it is always good to know where you stand in the vision department.

Over the years I have met a few people who are still flying, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how they are passing the vision part of there aviation medical exams. My best guess is that they are like Donald Sutherland‘s character Jerry O-Neill in Space Cowboys, memorizing the eye charts.

Next up for me in the aeromedical department is getting a current annual medical with my local AME, Dr. Kriegbaum. My medical has lapsed so its time for the full scale poke and prod. I don’t think I will be flying before the first of the year so I am going to wait until after the holidays before scheduling it. In the mean time, it’s time to get in some exercise and work on the cardio.


Before getting my official medical with an AME I am going to schedule a full physical with my GP for an advance heads up if necessary, which I doubt will be a problem. One thing I learned form starting my aviation career in an academy program was that taking your medical seriously is really important. Because the relationship between the FAA and AMEs requires AME’s to report any negative finding it makes sense to not have an AME as your regular doctor. It also makes a lot of sense to have a complete physical before you schedule an appointment for FAA medical, just for the heads up. There are a number of things that can be cleared up before going to the AME that could cause a problem in getting a medical certificate. One thing you can do before hand is to get your vision checked and be sure you have your corrective lenses, if needed, before your FAA medical.

I am not suggesting hiding anything from your AME, what I am talking about is paying close attention to things that could present a problem and treating them or getting them under control before they become a problem. Things like low level hypertension can be dealt with without medication if it is caught and treated early. A visit with your regular doctor can alert you to potential problems and get you in top shape before that FAA medical.

Until next time, blue skies and tail winds.


One of my favorite movies is Flyboys (2006) by Tony Bill. Some of my favorite scenes in the movie are the ones where the pilots gather in the Ready Room, aka the pub. They celebrate their successes and remember their losses in a way that many non-pilots can’t truly understand.

Viper (Tom Skarret’s character in Top Gun) said it best: “A good pilot is compelled to always evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what he has learned.” From outside the aviation world it may seem as though pilots are obsessed with death and accidents, and very callus about these situations. In one sense we are; from the day we start flight training, we are constantly exposed to aviation accident reports. Like most pilots with a few hundred hours, I know pilots who have died in an airplane, or been involved in a reportable event. More often than not the cause of the crash or event was Pilot Error.

Pilot Error seems to be the NTSB’s favorite phrase in accident reports, it appears in almost all of them. Sadly, it’s a legitimate statement in those reports far more often than not. This is why we read the reports; if that guy did it, I might do it, too. I have to pay attention to that. A well educated aviator might push the limits, but they know exactly where those limits are and how they affect the situation.

I am still in the planing phase of my aircraft build project but I am thinking about the Flight Testing phase. Before I can develop a Flight Test Program I need to have a good understanding of the Volksplane’s flight characteristics from other builders and pilots. I plan on asking a lot of questions on the boards and lists but if I want to ask intelligent and directed questions I need to know what to ask. My first stop in researching flight characteristics is the NTSB Aviation Accident Database.

According to the FAA’s Registration Database there are approximately 512 Volksplane variants currently registered in the U.S. Since the plans for the aircraft were made available in 1969 there have been 45 Volksplane accidents; 17 none/minor injury, 19 serious injury, 9 fatalities, they break down by decade as follows.

  2000 1990 1980 1970
Fatal 1 2 2 4
Non Fatal 2 4 9 21

Not all data fields add up numerically, mainly because the NTSB’s data in not always complete so keep that in mind before you pull out that calculator. In the case of our accident pilots only 44 were reported with a certificate status, 38 had a pilot certificate and 5 did not. I broke down pilot age into three groups. The under 30 set included 8 pilots, in the 31-49 group we found our majority with 22, the over 50 group claimed 12.

Let’s take a look at total pilot in command (PIC) hours and hours in type.

  ≤50 ≤100 ≤250 ≤500 ≥500
TTL Hrs 1 4 11 8 19
  ≤5 ≤25 ≤50 ≥50  
In Type 24 9 4 5  

Yes, that’s right. A couple of our intrepid certificateless pilots had reported over 100 hours.

A majority of the reports involved a loss of control in the air, 25, with several on the ground, 16. One (1) incident was due to weather and one (1) was due to a propeller failure.

18 incidences involved some kind of power failure, 8 from unknown causes, 10 from fuel issues, 5 of which were caused by fuel starvation, 2 of those from just old fashioned running out of gas.

There were 15 incidents of builders not installing parts, installing parts wrong, ground testing with known problems that ended up as unintentional in-flight problems.

Most of the mechanical stuff and incidents of pilots without certificates occurred in the 70s. The disturbing part is pilots with low total times and no time in type are more common in recent decades. It seems as though we have gotten better in the building part but more impatient about getting the bird in the air.

My conclusions from this basic data are that as a builder it is of the utmost importance to take your time and check everything thrice. As a test pilot, take your time, inspect everything, understand the flight characteristics of the aircraft, expected and otherwise, be current, in type if possible, and take each step of the test flight program with absolute attention to detail. Considering every flight as a test flight up to 100 hours is not a bad idea ether. There was only one incident over 100 hours. Attention to detail and planning could have prevented all of the 45 incidents with possible exceptions for 2 of them.

Did I learn anything I didn’t know? No. Did taking the time to do the research make me think a bit more about how to prevent failures and what might go wrong? You betcha! Will my standards in the build process be better than if I had not taken the time to do this research? Probably. How about flight testing standards? Yeah. I think I will be less ambitious with the test flight schedule.

Until next time, blue skies and tail winds,

BTW Just in case you are wondering, I have been known as FlyBoyJon since 2003.

Let The Project Begin!

Today is an important day for me. Today I am actually starting my first aircraft build project. Now I know you are bouncing in your seats “Show me the airplane, show me the airplane” but that’s going to be a while. First off I have to get this huge bolder rolling.

Building an airplane has been on my list of things to do for a long time. One of the things you have to do when you build an airplane is keep a Builders Log showing all of the processes you have gone through in completing your project. The FAA uses the Builders Log, in part, to demonstrate compliance with the federal regulations that say a builder must complete a “majority” of the work. This is known as the 51% Rule in Amateur-Built aviation circles.

A quick terminology note here for the non-initiated: Amateur-Built, Home-Built, and Experimental are all terms used for aircraft that are built by individuals or groups that do not build airplanes as a manufacturer. I will be using all three terms interchangeably throughout this post, and the entire blog for that matter.

There are a number of Builders Logs on line and the better ones cover not just the technical details of the building process but the spool-up of the project, the planning phase. This is an area I want to spend more time on than most other builders. There will of course be lots of coverage of the actual building process and after the airplane is built I will extensively cover the flight testing phase as well. My goal for this blog is to cover the entire project from start to finish.

In the beginning…

I have been searching for the right airplane to build for a couple of years now. I really liked the idea of building a WWI bi-plane like the Neuport 17/24 the airplane flown by the famous Lafayette Escadrille. I also considered the Curtis JN-4D or Jenny as they are more commonly known. Both projects would be tons of fun but the cost would be prohibitive and they would take at least 3 years to build, in part because the engines are very expensive and hard to come by.

As you might have guessed, the engine of an experimental aircraft is usually the most expensive component part. This became one of the deciding factors for me in choosing what airplane to build. Probably the least expensive engine to use in an airplane that has a good history for conversion as an aircraft engine is the Volkswagen Type 1. Pretty much any VW engine can be converted for aviation use. There are a few companies that make their living doing VW conversions. One company that does this is AeroConversions.

I found out about AeroConversions when I was looking at the Sonex as project airplane. After looking at the WWI fighters and deciding that the cost would be to high, I looked for the least expensive option I could find in a kit-built. A kit-built is just what it sounds like, you buy a kit, and build it. I liked Sonex for several reasons. One, the kit comes with the engine. That is not usually the case; the kit usually includes just about everything except the instruments and avionics but they do include a budget for them in their cost estimate, and the best part was the realistic cost for a completed basic Sonex comes out to about $25,000. Like most kit manufacturers, Sonex has a collection of sub-kits you can buy at various stages to help spread the cost out over time, but you still end up with a couple of big chunks-O-change having to be dropped all at once, like the engine kit coming in a bit over six grand.

My mind started twirling with ways to build the funds through sponsorships and the like, which I am still open to hint hint but it was just not coming about. I started down that road about a year before the economy turned to mud which put a big damper on the whole thing. Now, here I am, many moons down the road and still no air-O-plane. My 2010 edition of the Aircraft Spruce catalog showed up and as I was thumbing through it, I looked at a plans-built that I have looked at many times before, but this time I saw them with different eyes. Plans-built is like a kit-built only no parts, just the plans, you have to figure out what you need and then go get it. Plans-built is the least expensive way to build an airplane, but it usually takes considerably longer to get in the air.

The VP

The VolksPlane is not a pretty airplane, it is a very simple airplane. It is a wood and fabric built airplane that has proven to be quite sturdy. Here are some of the basics about the plane. With a 2000cc VW it will fly at a slow 75-95 mph with a maximum speed around 110 and a Do Not Exceed speed of 120. It is designed for the Utility category which means it can handle a few Gs. Here is where it becomes a real winner, it burns about 3 gallons of fuel per hour, unlike a Cessna 172 that burns about 11 to 15. Last but certainly not least… it has a realistic build budget of $12,300.

Now I know I can do better than $12,300. I beefed up my budget in all directions so this is actually a very conservative number. The only place it could get out of hand is with the… you guessed it, the engine. I have heard some reports of builds of the VP in the “less than $5,000” range. I am going to stick to my guns on this one at $12,300. This gives me a generous tool budget, includes sales tax of 10%, an “extras” budget, a shipping and handling budget, and a 10% of total cost PCO budget. Knock on wood… I think I’m covered.

This budgeting is based on a collection of sub-kits from Aircraft Spruce, most of which are $500 or less, the most expensivesub-kit is the highest cost landing gear option at a little less than $1,200, the least expensive option for landing gear is $700, so I think I have a good amount of wiggle room built-in to the budget. I can also look at buying materials in smaller assembly-based chunks from local suppliers.

What’s next?

Now I need to start the project with the Planning Phase.

  • Contact FAA for an “Amature Builders” information packet.
  • Begin Builders log This blog!
  • Purchase EAA Builders kit
  • Purchase Volksplane plans
  • Purchase Log books: Airframe, Engine, Prop
  • Purchase builders reference books There are several books that are very useful to have, I’ll list them later. Most of these can wait until I am ready to purchase materials
  • Request an N-Number send in “Affidavit of Ownership for Amateur-Built Aircraft” Form 8050-88. This is the identification number on the tail of the airplane. It’s official!!!!
  • Register the airplane After the N-Number confirmation comes by mail, send in “Aircraft Registration Application” Form 8050-1
  • Develop a build schedule including: **
    1. Construction Schedule
    2. Budget Schedule
  • Begin building

**So why is this after a bunch of other stuff? Good question. I already have a preliminary budget and a preliminary work schedule but you can’t really get down to solid numbers until you have had some time to go over the plans and break things down into sub assemblies with materials lists and all of that persnickety stuff. Because I am working on pocket-change-budget I have to take the extra time to schedule little bits of work at a time efficiently so I’m not sitting around on my butt not working on my airplane.

In conclusion

So there it is. I am building an airplane. It would be nice to fly to AirVenture Oshkosh 2011, but that is unlikely; 2012 however is doable with this project. We shall see.

Now I am off to call the FAA, item one… check.

Bent Metal & Chains

Last night I went to an FAA Safety Team meeting for instructors. At the breaks and after the gathering, like just about any pilot gathering, things turn to Hanger Talk. Hanger Talk is one of the highlights of any aviation event for me. For the non-pilot/airman world, hanger talk is essentially the same as water cooler talk, with pilots it’s a little different though. Pilots talk a lot about accidents and the stupid stuff “other” pilots do and our own harrowing stories of mayhem and adventure.

I spend most of my hanger talk time around career pilots, people who fly for a living or are working at making that the case, most of them are every day commercial pilots, aerial photography, traffic watch, power and water company pilots, some passenger carriers, and flight instructors or CFIs. It’s been my experience that this segment of the pilot community has something in common with early aviators, it’s a pilot culture thing that has many aspects but when you think “barnstormer”, “WWI Ace” or Fighter Pilot” you get close. There is a little of that devil-may-care in every career pilot I have met.

On the surface it seems like a dare-devil attitude, a “kick the tires and light the fires”, “need for speed” kind of air about them, beneath that however, there is a very sober, meticulous even retentive attention to detail it’s this side that keeps career pilots alive.

There is a line in the sky, a line between life and death. It may sound melodramatic but a “blink” in good judgement and you can easily miss or cross that line. The “line” is that attention to detail, the minutia of data, knowing your personal limitations, the limitations of your aircraft, and the environment around you. Early in my flight training an instructor I knew was teaching some students about pilot mortality and the importance of preflight work. He paused a moment, a stoic look on his face, then said “sooner or later, a friend will die flying, and it will have been his own fault.” It took a few minutes for the class to absorb the harsh reality of what he said. I have been flying since 2003, I have been acquainted with three pilots who blinked in their good judgement. All of them CFIs, good people, all of them doing something stupid, for whatever reason, they did not take their responsibilities seriously, at least once, and thats all it took.

This is why pilots talk about accidents, it reminds us that it only takes one mistake or over site to start the “accident chain” rolling. It’s rarely just one thing that brings about an accident. It is inevitably a chain of events, errors and over sites, that bring about bent metal or the demise of an aviator. We talk about those errors and over sites to keep them top-of-mind to remind us so we won’t make the same mistake. Accident chains are usually fairly long, 10 or so links, often several of those links are check-list items. Frequently if the accident pilot had just read through his check-list, instead of skipping it for what ever reason, the chain would have been broken early, maybe before the plane even powered up, then the event wouldn’t have been one at all.

A large portion of general aviation General Aviation accidents in the United States could be avoided if pilots commit to always using check-lists. Vigilance, professionalism, and a meticulous attention to detail are required skills for pilots, using a checklist is such a simple task, and not doing it can be costly.

For those who are now scared to fly, remember this… Pilots on their own time sometimes ease up on their vigilance, they blink, thats when they make the news. Flying is not dangerous, there is however inherent danger in the act of flying. Career pilots and air carriers do everything they can to mitigate the risks involved in flying. Commercial flying is still one of the safest modes of transportation, it just gets more press when things go wrong. Just ask Capt. Sully.


Colonial SurveyorMaps and charts of all kinds have fascinated me as far back as I can remember. Some of my fondest memories are of time spent using or making maps. I have had numerous occasions where my skills with maps and charts have allowed me the pleasure of teaching others the art and science of navigation; on land, sea, and in the air.

As a Boy Scout I used topographical maps frequently in a wide variety of environments. As a Search and Rescue team member I used them almost daily and was an instructor for land navigation from time to time. As a pilot and ground instructor I have worked with students on chart reading and all aspects of aviation navigation. Throughout my life I have used maps and charts in my day to day work. Being a navigator with all of these experiences I have noticed a trend over the years (much like the societal trend) to rely on electronics. In this case, reliance on electronic navigation aids.

GPS is an awesome tool! I have been working with GPS systems since the 80s and I love using them with all of their advanced tracking, trip calculating, and time/distance features. They can help navigation by taking on the simple and tedious calculations and displaying the results in an easy-to-use format. As a pilot I use other radio navigational aids as well as GPS. All of them are fantastic tools, but they do share a common down side; they breed laziness, complacency, and a degradation of basic navigation skills.

It would be fair to say that well over half of the people using GPS in recreational navigation, if forced by circumstances to use a map or chart, a compass, and having an initial bearing and heading, would find it very difficult to get from point A to point B, let alone points C, D, E, and F. Even in aviation where navigation and situational awareness are critical, the advances in safety through electronic navigation have come at a potential cost: the disuse and thereby degradation of basic navigation skills.

A disheartening indicator of this complacency and loss of basic skills comes from an unlikely source, the USGS. Due to budget constraints, rapidly changing technologies and rapidly changing topography, topographical maps have gone out of use at an alarming rate. As a USGS Earth Science Corps volunteer, I supported the USGS efforts as a map annotator for many years. Several years ago the ESC was disbanded and a new organization put in its place with a new task for its volunteers; providing GPS coordinates for prominent structures. This change happened at about the same time Google Earth hit the open market, making the new USGS project seem a bit superfluous.

Even before the technological and organizational changes at USGS came the changes in product cycle. It seems that the only topos being updated were ones needed for special projects. The rest of the catalog was ignored entirely, despite vast amounts of changes taking place in the Quads. A prime example of the neglect in the new cycle is the San Jose West quadrangle. The current version is dated 1 JAN 1980. This map is now almost 30 years old. I live near this quad, I can assure you that a few things have changed, including the addition of a six-lane freeway.

I firmly believe that terrestrial navigation should be a regular subject in primary education. It leads to proficiency in so many other areas that it should be considered a foundation skill set, but with the tools available, one has to ask… Has the USGS completely lost it’s focus? Should it be retasked? Or has it become so useless, like the Census Bureau, that it should just be eliminated all together. I would hate to see the service abandon, but I think the service should be seriously reevaluated. It has become a clearing house for demographics and basic geodetic data with little real unique value due to the proliferation of GIS services offered by private companies like ESRI; a task I might add that is duplicated by the GIA and other TLA agencies. However, an increase in topographic map consumers to meet the needs of basic navigation education might drive a better product response from the USGS and generate a revitalized commercial market for there topographical products.

My apologies for the soap box here. Government waste has been piling up, and I get frustrated seeing services like the USGS destroyed with scaled-back funds rather than retasking and developing a new fiscal plan. It makes no sense to reduce budgets and staff, then expect the same workload and quality. Something has to give, and it’s usually the product. It would be better to disband the organization all together. Ether elimination or retasking would produce a better budget reduction.

But back on the subject of navigation basics. A good understanding of the basic principals of navigation can be a strong character building skill. The tasks in navigation quickly and easily become analogues to the skills in navigating life.

So what does all of this posturing mean? I guess it is thinking out loud. I have been developing projects for so long that I have gotten into the habit of thinking of projects first from the cloud perspective, then deconstructing to the smallest elements then reconstructing from the ground up.

While putting together plans for some short adventures I began working on a Basic Survival Kit (a story in and of itself) but it got me thinking – more important than the basic kit, is the foundation knowledge behind it. The tools are of little benefit unless you know how to use them. In some cases the tools will do more harm than good without proper background knowledge. The same is true for navigation, and navigation is in the top five of primary skills in a survival situation: fire, shelter, water/food, navigation, communication.

From the adventure perspective, I am looking at the basic skills needed for a successful adventure where navigation moves to the top of the list in the planing phase. You need to know your route before you can asses the equipment and materials you will need. Even the Basic Survival Kit is determined to some extent by the navigation/planning.

From a navigation sense, it is back to the basics; a topo, compass, straightedge and a pencil. Time for some back to basics thinking.

Until next time,
Trek Safe

Bessie Coleman 1892-1926

Bessie Coleman was an early aviation pioneer and adventurer. Bessie, we salute you, with respect and gratitude on your birthday.

The following is a repost of an article from the AOPA

Bessie_Coleman“Today is the birthday of Bessie Coleman, the first African-American female pilot. Born in 1892, the tenth of 13 children, Coleman got the idea of becoming a pilot while reading newspaper articles about World War I pilots. No flight school in the United States would train her, but Coleman didn’t let that stop her. She took a French language course in Chicago, then, using her savings and the help of some influential friends, she traveled to France. She learned to fly and got her license in 1921 from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. When Coleman returned to the United States, now a celebrity, she performed in airshows and raised money to open her own flight school. She died in 1926 in an aircraft accident, apparently while flight testing a Curtiss JN-4 (I say “apparently” because there are differing accounts of what exactly happened). Coleman, riding in the rear seat, was not wearing a seat belt. (She may have been unable to see over the cockpit when strapped in.) Her mechanic was flying from the front. A wrench may have fallen into the controls and jammed them; the mechanic lost control of the aircraft, and Coleman fell out. Her mechanic also died in the ensuing crash.

Racial barriers failed to keep Bessie Coleman from taking her place in the sky. What might she have accomplished had she lived to a ripe old age?”

AOPA Pilot Blog: Reporting Points by Jill Tallman